Prolific composer and pianist Cole Porter was at first a wealthy playboy who performed only at parties. But, then, composer Irving Berlin came along and wasted no time telling Porter he was wasting his talent. That was the kick in the pants Porter needed to go on and write successful Broadway shows such as 'Kiss Me, Kate ' and 'Anything Goes. '
Marcia Ragonetti's got a million juicy morsels such as this about Porter, Ira and George Gershwin and other musicians of the 1920s and 1930s. She and Steven Taylor, both acclaimed Denver singers and opera stars, will perform Thursday in 'A De-Lovely Evening with Cole Porter, ' a benefit for the Pikes Peak Opera League, an organization that promotes knowledge and appreciation of the opera and helps support the local Opera Theatre of the Rockies.
Ragonetti, who has sung professionally for 35 years, wrote the show in a manner that stitches together Porter's life story along with his music. They'll sing about 20 Porter songs, including classics 'Night and Day!, ' 'In the Still of the Night ' and 'So in Love. ' They'll also 'channel, ' she said, real-life characters he met along the way, such as Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich.
'It's fun for the audience, ' Ragonetti says. 'They get a peek into a whole other era, the '20s and '30s, which don't seem very far away for me, but for young people, it was hundreds of years ago. It's amazing the completely different lifestyle they had. '
Despite the decades that have passed since Porter's heyday, his tunes, and those of his peers, still draw a crowd.
'They're melodic and memorable, ' she said. 'You can really whistle them when you leave the concerts. The wordplay is brilliant. It's our great poetry; it's our Shakespeare. Gershwin was brilliant. Porter wrote all of his own lyrics. There's a certain invention and playfulness about the words that are still fresh today. They're somewhat dated, but there's a true sentiment in them. '
Ragonetti's ties to the region go back to the late '80s. She has a long relationship of singing and performing with Martile Rowland, founder and artistic director of Opera Theatre of the Rockies. The first show Ragonetti did with Rowland was 'Die Fledermaus ' in 1989. She has also performed with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic multiple times.
'It's great to have Colorado Springs as my second musical home, ' she said.
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.